One creative approach in integrating the visual arts into the life of the local congregation involves employing an artist-in-residence. In return for studio space and appropriate monetary remuneration, the artist-in-residence is available to create visual arts for worship, to instruct worshipers about the nature of the visual arts in worship, and to involve members of the congregation in the design and fabrication of the arts in worship.
Symbols are a primary means by which the truth of the gospel is communicated. They communicate to us through all our senses and on many levels, to our thinking and our feeling, our memory, and our imagination. Further, symbolic language serves to unite Christians, giving them a common reference point and experience that transcends divisions within the Christian community.
The aesthetic dimensions of Christian worship encompass not only written liturgies and rubrics, but also the ways in which the liturgy is brought to life. This article addresses the rich and varied ways that these aesthetic dimensions are realized, including the liturgical expressions of time and space, the visual and the aural, the cognitive and emotional, the eternal and the culture-bound.
The biblical conception of God as holy has profound significance for the philosophy of the worship arts. The biblical worshiper encounters the Lord as the Holy One. The basic connotation of holiness (Hebrew qodesh) is not the goodness or righteousness of Yahweh but the fact that he is encountered as one “set apart,” sacred or sacrosanct, unlike that which is experienced in the ordinary events of life.
The concept of humankind as created in God’s image has several implications for human artistic activity. First, it suggests that there is no need to fashion an artistic image of the deity; humankind is already that representation—the handiwork of the Creator who has provided his own visual reminder of his presence in, and ownership of, the earth.
Most attempts to shape a Christian philosophy of the arts have centered around the doctrine of the Incarnation. The biblical proclamation that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14) is viewed as an affirmation that humanity, along with the physical world in which people live, is made sacred in virtue of God’s participation within it.
Biblical worship may incorporate artistic motifs drawn from a creation God pronounced to be “very good” (Gen. 1:31; the Hebrew word can have the sense of “beautiful”). The appropriate use of such imagery can be an affirmation of the supreme authority of God the Creator, in the conviction that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Ps. 24:1).
A biblical philosophy of the arts may take its departure from the scriptural understanding of the creative activity of God. In the biblical perspective, the Creation is the result of the initiative of God in bringing order out of chaos, “dividing” light from darkness, the land from the waters (Gen. 1:3–8).